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Wake-up call

Gain of Function


"Gain of Function.” Has a familiar ring. Could it be an aspirational dream for improvement of governance? Too often our elected leaders' bully pulpit is more a lectern for tea and sympathy.  

And self-promotion.

Nonetheless, the City Council's recent non-enforceable resolution urging the state to abolish the sordid tradition of legacy admissions is bold and on-the-money.  It may have no teeth but its influence leaves bite marks.  

The Council is at its best when it refuses to be a conscientious objector in the wars for equal justice.  

State Senator Andrew Gounardes called legacy admissions "the affirmative action for the privileged.” We didn't hear much about it until the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision in June that struck down affirmative action.  

But getting rid of legacy admissions stands on its own merits. Raising it as a "tit for tat" with racial components neither hurts nor helps the argument.

For generations, colleges have allowed applicants to jump the line over better qualified competitors, simply because of their DNA proximity to alumni, some of whom may have been donors and networkers on campus, as an insurance policy to ensure their kids cash in the winning ticket.

It is even more insidious than the historical convention of "athletic scholarships,” which is a misnomer that softens the hard rule that illiteracy should preclude becoming an Ivy League star.   Some colleges pretend that it is in the interest of social justice when its actual function is revenue generation.  

The worthiest students are oppressed by the condescension of false co-option.  A student need not be undocumented, an immigrant or a person of color to be victimized by legacy admissions.  The ghastly gentry are equal-opportunity excluders. Every group in the rainbow of humanity knows how to call in their chips, and places like Cornell and Columbia have played the game of offering admissions based on ancestral genomes.

Lola Brabham, president of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, conceded that "legacy admission has been an important recruitment tool" and generously admits the "perception" that it is more about closed entitlement than open opportunity.

The City Council has a lot on its plate of priorities. Stick a fork in some of them and we'd all be better off.  

Making outdoor dining permanent is, like Vision Zero, a revenue-generating gambit (costing over $1,000 annually), with the collateral benefit of titillating tourists with its optics of the picture postcard nouveau charm proliferating in Mayor Eric Adam's rebounding city.  

The setups are often eyesores, like those "rain forests" within wrought-iron enclosures that Bill de Blasio planted hither and thither and thither in the suburbs, which were meant as artistic ecologies field practicums but became nocturnal discotheques for rats. 

If we are known by the company we keep, are we to be judged by the people whose opinions we share or whose actions we give the impression of condoning? Should the City Council and Mayor Eric Adams need to defend their stances on the housing of migrants, the recent anarch in Union Square, and the classification of "hate crimes"? Are clarifications in order? 

When "influencer" Kai Cenat's offer to give away PS5s, microphones, keyboard and headlines at an event in Union Square, for which he had no permit, some of the thousands who showed up tossed bottles, exploded firecrackers, damaged property and sent some cops to the hospital. Cenat was arrested for incitement to riot and some others taken into custody.  

What is the status of these cases? Have they evaporated like tiny puddles? What assumptions can be fairly made, based on the district attorney's prosecutorial predilections?   

There is a spotlight on hate crimes citywide. Such a category is ludicrous. All violent felonies should be punishable according to the degree and irreversibility of damage. No weight should be given to the race, religion, nationality or any other group association of either victim or perpetrator. Murder, for instance, is a hate crime in all instances. 

This avowal does not make a person a supremacist of some kind or other. 

Once a breaking point is broken, what comes next? The migrant housing crisis, and its panoply of spinoff emergencies, is widely and rationally resented, not just by heartless reactionaries, for both misconception and mismanagement. There's not a cubby or bunk bed left anywhere in the city for the thousands of homeless, mentally ill or veterans whose safe haven must be a cardboard box, park bench or subway slab.  

Ironically, the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center is largely being signed over to these unreviewed guests. Neither should Central Park and Prospect Park become tent metropolises. 

The city's 40-old right-to-shelter obligation should not be haphazard and totally wholesale. Somewhere along their trek, many of these migrants have been played and used by hustlers.  According to some biblical sources, only 144,000 souls will enter heaven. Hey,  at the current rate, the Hotel Roosevelt may surpass that number.

The Legal Aid Society correctly accuses the state of not taking ownership of the worsening dilemma. Governor Kathy Hochul's moment of truth, if she is a practitioner of such moments, has come and may soon be gone. So far she has delivered scarcely a quarter of the funding that Adams estimates is essential.

Also in recent labor news is the particularly palatable surrender by the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation to expedited mediation and impasse arbitration that won pay parity and safe-staffing awards to the city's public-health nurses. Full-time members will get around a 37-percent boost over the five-and-a-half-year contract. There will be a new citywide nurse float pool , additional mediators for disputes and other initiatives that will symbiotically improve patient outcomes and the professional experience of the nurses.

The New York State Nurses Association is an advocate for both their members and the patients in their care. As usual, a win for unions is also a victory for the people served by its members. 

Triumphs won through the collective bargaining process can have global implications and even find their way to the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House. The American Guild of Musical Artists had filed a grievance on behalf of Russian world-class soprano Anna Netrebko, whose contract to appear in several operas was canceled by the Met following her country's invasion of Ukraine.

Whatever her personal views are, they should be irrelevant for a performing artist whose political views play literally no role. Were she a partisan or propaganda tool in her private life, perhaps there might be some basis to sideline her, but even that would be refutable. She is, because of the cascading effect of this publicity on her international standing and prospects, in effect being blacklisted.

Netrebko's voice is more powerful than Russia's army.

I apologize to The Chief's readers for this embarrassment of segues.  Blame it on the Gourmet Table's bioengineered crackers I ate. It lists the ingredient K215715000NLI #14106. A few more of them and I too may be an "influencer.”


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